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War and the Future by H. G. Wells

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everyone who discusses this question; some are less frequently
insisted upon. I have been joining up one thing to another,
suggestions I have heard from this man and that, and I believe
that it is really possible to state a solution that will be
acceptable to the bulk of reasonable men all about the world.
Directly we put the panic-massacres of Dinant and Louvain, the
crime of the /Lusitania/ and so on into the category of
symptoms rather than essentials, outrages that call for special
punishments and reparations, but that do not enter further into
the ultimate settlement, we can begin to conceive a possible
world treaty. Let me state the broad outlines of this
pacification. The outlines depend one upon the other; each is a
condition of the other. It is upon these lines that the
thoughtful, as distinguished from the merely the combative
people, seem to be drifting everywhere.

In the first place, it is agreed that there would have to be an
identical treaty between all the great powers of the world
binding them to certain things. It would have to provide:---

That the few great industrial states capable of producing modern
war equipment should take over and control completely the
manufacture of all munitions of war in the world. And that they
should absolutely close the supply of such material to all the
other states in the world. This is a far easier task than many
people suppose. War has now been so developed on its mechanical
side that the question of its continuance or abolition rests now
entirely upon four or five great powers.

Next comes the League of Peace idea; that there should be an
International Tribunal for the discussion and settlement of
international disputes. That the dominating powers should
maintain land and sea forces only up to a limit agreed upon and
for internal police use only or for the purpose of enforcing the
decisions of the Tribunal. That they should all be bound to
attack and suppress any power amongst them which increases its
war equipment beyond its defined limits.

That much has already been broached in several quarters. But so
far is not enough. It ignores the chief processes of that
economic war that aids and abets and is inseparably a part of
modern international conflicts. If we are to go as far as we
have already stated in the matter of international controls, then
we must go further and provide that the International Tribunal
should have power to consider and set aside all tariffs and
localised privileges that seem grossly unfair or seriously
irritating between the various states of the world. It should
have power to pass or revise all new tariff, quarantine, alien
exclusion, or the like legislation affecting international
relations. Moreover, it should take over and extend the work of
the International Bureau of Agriculture at Rome with a view to
the control of all staple products. It should administer the sea
law of the world, and control and standardise freights in the
common interests of mankind. Without these provisions it would
be merely preventing the use of certain weapons; it would be
doing nothing to prevent countries strangling or suffocating each
other by commercial warfare. It would not abolish war.

Now upon this issue people do not seem to me to be yet thinking
very clearly. It is the exception to find anyone among the peace
talkers who really grasps how inseparably the necessity for free
access for everyone to natural products, to coal and tropical
products, e.g. free shipping at non-discriminating tariffs, and
the recognition by a Tribunal of the principle of common welfare
in trade matters, is bound up with the ideal of a permanent world
peace. But any peace that does not provide for these things will
be merely laying down of the sword in order to take up the
cudgel. And a "peace" that did not rehabilitate industrial
Belgium, Poland, and the north of France would call imperatively
for the imposition upon the Allies of a system of tariffs in the
interests of these countries, and for a bitter economic "war
after the war" against Germany. That restoration is, of course,
an implicit condition to any attempt to set up an economic peace
in the world.

These things being arranged for the future, it would be further
necessary to set up an International Boundary Commission, subject
to certain defining conditions agreed upon by the belligerents,
to re-draw the map of Europe, Asia, and Africa. This war does
afford an occasion such as the world may never have again of
tracing out the "natural map" of mankind, the map that will
secure the maximum of homogeneity and the minimum of racial and
economic freedom. All idealistic people hope for a restored
Poland. But it is a childish thing to dream of a contented
Poland with Posen still under the Prussian heel, with Cracow cut
off, and without a Baltic port. These claims of Poland to
completeness have a higher sanction than the mere give and take
of belligerents in congress.

Moreover this International Tribunal, if it was indeed to prevent
war, would need also to have power to intervene in the affairs of
any country or region in a state of open and manifest disorder,
for the protection of foreign travellers and of persons and
interests localised in that country but foreign to it.

Such an agreement as I have here sketched out would at once lift
international politics out of the bloody and hopeless squalor of
the present conflict. It is, I venture to assert, the peace of
the reasonable man in any country whatever. But it needs the
attention of such a disengaged people as the American people to
work it out and supply it with--weight. It needs putting before
the world with some sort of authority greater than its mere
entire reasonableness. Otherwise it will not come before the
minds of ordinary men with the effect of a practicable
proposition. I do not see any such plant springing from the
European battlefields. It is America's supreme opportunity. And
yet it is the common sense of the situation, and the solution
that must satisfy a rational German as completely as a rational
Frenchman or Englishman. It has nothing against it but the
prejudice against new and entirely novel things.


In throwing out the suggestion that America should ultimately
undertake the responsibility of proposing a world peace
settlement, I admit that I run counter to a great deal of
European feeling. Nowhere in Europe now do people seem to be in
love with the United States. But feeling is a colour that
passes. And the question is above matters of feeling. Whether
the belligerents dislike Americans or the Americans dislike the
belligerents is an incidental matter. The main question is of
the duty of a great and fortunate nation towards the rest of the
world and the future of mankind.

I do not know how far Americans are aware of the trend of feeling
in Europe at the present time. Both France and Great Britain
have a sense of righteousness in this war such as no nation, no
people, has ever felt in war before. We know we are fighting to
save all the world from the rule of force and the unquestioned
supremacy of the military idea. Few Frenchmen or Englishmen can
imagine the war presenting itself to an American intelligence
under any other guise. At the invasion of Belgium we were
astonished that America did nothing. At the sinking of the
/Lusitania/ all Europe looked to America. The British mind
contemplates the spectacle of American destroyers acting as
bottleholders to German submarines with a dazzled astonishment.
"Manila," we gasp. In England we find excuses for America in our
own past. In '64 we betrayed Denmark; in '70 we deserted France.
The French have not these memories. They do not understand the
damning temptations of those who feel they are "/au-dessus de
la melee./" They believe they had some share in
the independence of America, that there is a sacred cause in
republicanism, that there are grounds for a peculiar sympathy
between France and the United States in republican institutions.
They do not realise that Germany and America have a common
experience in recent industrial development, and a common belief
in the "degeneracy" of all nations with a lower rate of trade
expansion. They do not realise how a political campaign with the
slogan of "Peace and a Full Dinner-Pail" looks in the middle
west, what an honest, simple, rational appeal it makes there.
Atmospheres alter values. In Europe, strung up to tragic and
majestic issues, to Europe gripping a gigantic evil in a death
struggle, that would seem an inscription worthy of a pigsty. A
child in Europe would know now that the context is, "until the
bacon-buyer calls," and it is difficult to realise that adult
citizens in America may be incapable of realising that obvious

I set these things down plainly. There is a very strong
disposition in all the European countries to believe America
fundamentally indifferent to the rights and wrongs of the
European struggle; sentimentally interested perhaps, but
fundamentally indifferent. President Wilson is regarded as a
mere academic sentimentalist by a great number of Europeans.
There is a very widespread disposition to treat America lightly
and contemptuously, to believe that America, as one man put it to
me recently, "hasn't the heart to do anything great or the guts
to do anything wicked." There is a strong undercurrent of
hostility therefore to the idea of America having any voice
whatever in the final settlement after the war. It is not for a
British writer to analyse the appearance that have thus affected
American world prestige. I am telling what I have observed.

Let me relate two trivial anecdotes.

X came to my hotel in Paris one day to take me to see a certain
munitions organisation. He took from his pocket a picture
postcard that had been sent him by a well-meaning American
acquaintance from America. It bore a portrait of General
Lafayette, and under it was printed the words, "General
Lafayette, /Colonel in the United States army./"

"Oh! These Americans!" said X with a gesture.

And as I returned to Paris from the French front, our train
stopped at some intermediate station alongside of another train
of wounded men. Exactly opposite our compartment was a car. It
arrested our conversation. It was, as it were, an ambulance
/de grand luxe/; it was a thing of very light, bright wood
and very golden decorations; at one end of it was painted very
large and fair the Stars and Stripes, and at the other fair-sized
letters of gold proclaimed--I am sure the lady will not resent
this added gleam of publicity--"Presented by Mrs. William

My companions were French writers and French military men, and
they were discussing with very keen interest that persistent
question, "the ideal battery." But that ambulance sent a shaft
of light into our carriage, and we stared together.

Then Colonel Z pointed with two fingers and remarked to us,
without any excess of admiration:


Then he shrugged his shoulders and pulled down the corners of his

We felt there was nothing more to add to that, and after a little
pause the previous question was resumed.

I state these things in order to make it clear that America will
start at a disadvantage when she starts upon the mission of
salvage and reconciliation which is, I believe, her proper
role in this world conflict. One would have to be blind
and deaf on this side to be ignorant of European persuasion of
America's triviality. I would not like to be an American
travelling in Europe now, and those I meet here and there have
some of the air of men who at any moment may be dunned for a
debt. They explode without provocation into excuses and

And I will further confess that when Viscount Grey answered the
intimations of President Wilson and ex-President Taft of an
American initiative to found a World League for Peace, by asking
if America was prepared to back that idea with force, he spoke
the doubts of all thoughtful European men. No one but an
American deeply versed in the idiosyncrasies of the American
population can answer that question, or tell us how far the
delusion of world isolation which has prevailed in America for
several generations has been dispelled. But if the answer to
Lord Grey is "Yes," then I think history will emerge with a
complete justification of the obstinate maintenance of neutrality
by America. It is the end that reveals a motive. It is our
ultimate act that sometimes teaches us our original intention.
No one can judge the United States yet. Were you neutral because
you are too mean and cowardly, or too stupidly selfish, or
because you had in view an end too great to be sacrificed to a
moment of indignant pride and a force in reserve too precious to
dispel? That is the still open question for America.

Every country is a mixture of many strands. There is a Base
America, there is a Dull America, there is an Ideal and Heroic
America. And I am convinced that at present Europe underrates
and misjudges the possibilities of the latter.

All about the world to-day goes a certain freemasonry of thought.
It is an impalpable and hardly conscious union of intention. It
thinks not in terms of national but human experience; it falls
into directions and channels of thinking that lead inevitably to
the idea of a world-state under the rule of one righteousness.
In no part of the world is this modern type of mind so abundantly
developed, less impeded by antiquated and perverse political and
religious forms, and nearer the sources of political and
administrative power, than in America. It does not seem to
matter what thousand other things America may happen to be,
seeing that it is also that. And so, just as I cling to the
belief, in spite of hundreds of adverse phenomena, that the
religious and social stir of these times must ultimately go far
to unify mankind under the kingship of God, so do I cling also to
the persuasion that there are intellectual forces among the
rational elements in the belligerent centres, among the other
neutrals and in America, that will co-operate in enabling the
United States to play that role of the Unimpassioned Third
Party, which becomes more and more necessary to a generally
satisfactory ending of the war.


The idea that the settlement of this war must be what one might
call an unimpassioned settlement or, if you will, a scientific
settlement or a judicial and not a treaty settlement, a
settlement, that is, based upon some conception of what is right
and necessary rather than upon the relative success or failure of
either set of belligerents to make its Will the standard of
decision, is one that, in a great variety of forms and partial
developments, I find gaining ground in the most different
circles. The war was an adventure, it was the German adventure
under the Hohenzollern tradition, to dominate the world. It was
to be the last of the Conquests. It has failed. Without calling
upon the reserve strength of America the civilised world has
defeated it, and the war continues now partly upon the issue
whether it shall be made for ever impossible, and partly because
Germany has no organ but its Hohenzollern organisation through
which it can admit its failure and develop its latent readiness
for a new understanding on lines of mutual toleration. For that
purpose nothing more reluctant could be devised than Hohenzollern
imperialism. But the attention of every new combatant--it is not
only Germany now--has been concentrated upon military
necessities; every nation is a clenched nation, with its powers
of action centred in its own administration, bound by many
strategic threats and declarations, and dominated by the idea of
getting and securing advantages. It is inevitable that a
settlement made in a conference of belligerents alone will be
shortsighted, harsh, limited by merely incidental necessities,
and obsessed by the idea of hostilities and rivalries continuing
perennially; it will be a trading of advantages for subsequent
attacks. It will be a settlement altogether different in effect
as well as in spirit from a world settlement made primarily to
establish a new phase in the history of mankind.

Let me take three instances of the impossibility of complete
victory /on either side/ giving a solution satisfactory to
the conscience and intelligence of reasonable men.

The first--on which I will not expatiate, for everyone knows of
its peculiar difficulty--is Poland.

The second is a little one, but one that has taken hold of my
imagination. In the settlement of boundaries preceding this war
the boundary between Serbia and north-eastern Albania was drawn
with an extraordinary disregard of the elementary needs of the
Albanians of that region. It ran along the foot of the mountains
which form their summer pastures and their refuge from attack,
and it cut their mountains off from their winter pastures and
market towns. Their whole economic life was cut to pieces and
existence rendered intolerable for them. Now an intelligent
Third Party settling Europe would certainly restore these market
towns, Ipek, Jakova, and Prisrend, to Albania. But the Albanians
have no standing in this war; theirs is the happy lot that might
have fallen to Belgium had she not resisted; the war goes to and
fro through Albania; and when the settlement comes, it is highly
improbable that the slightest notice will be taken of Albania's
plight in the region. In which case these particular Albanians
will either be driven into exile to America or they will be
goaded to revolt, which will be followed no doubt by the punitive
procedure usual in the Balkan peninsula.

For my third instance I would step from a matter as small as
three market towns and the grazing of a few thousand head of
sheep to a matter as big as the world. What is going to happen
to the shipping of the world after this war? The Germans, with
that combination of cunning and stupidity which baffles the rest
of mankind, have set themselves to destroy the mercantile marine
not merely of Britain and France but of Norway and Sweden,
Holland, and all the neutral countries. The German papers openly
boast that they are building up a big mercantile marine that will
start out to take up the world's overseas trade directly peace is
declared. Every such boast receives careful attention in the
British press. We have heard a very great deal about the German
will-to-power in this war, but there is something very much older
and tougher and less blatant and conspicuous, the British will.
In the British papers there has appeared and gained a permanent
footing this phrase, "ton for ton." This means that Britain will
go on fighting until she has exacted and taken over from Germany
the exact equivalent of all the British shipping Germany has
submarined. People do not realise that a time may come when
Germany will be glad and eager to give Russia, France and Italy
all that they require of her, when Great Britain may be quite
content to let her allies make an advantageous peace and herself
still go on fighting Germany. She does not intend to let that
furtively created German mercantile marine ship or coal or exist
upon the high seas--so long as it can be used as an economic
weapon against her. Neither Britain nor France nor Italy can
tolerate anything of the sort.

It has been the peculiar boast of Great Britain that her shipping
has been unpatriotic. She has been the impartial carrier of the
whole world. Her shippers may have served their own profit; they
have never served hers. The fluctuations of freight charges may
have been a universal nuisance, but they have certainly not been
an aggressive national conspiracy. It is Britain's case against
any German ascendancy at sea, an entirely convincing case, that
such an ascendancy would be used ruthlessly for the advancement
of German world power. The long-standing freedom of the seas
vanishes at the German touch. So beyond the present war there
opens the agreeable prospect of a mercantile struggle, a bitter
freight war and a war of Navigation Acts for the ultimate control
in the interests of Germany or of the Anti-German allies, of the
world's trade.

Now how in any of these three cases can the bargaining and
trickery of diplomatists and the advantage-hunting of the
belligerents produce any stable and generally beneficial
solution? What all the neutrals want, what every rational and
far-sighted man in the belligerent countries wants, what the
common sense of the whole world demands, is neither the
"ascendancy" of Germany nor the "ascendancy" of Great Britain nor
the "ascendancy" of any state or people or interest in the
shipping of the world. The plain right thing is a world shipping
control, as impartial as the Postal Union. What right and reason
and the welfare of coming generations demand in Poland is a
unified and autonomous Poland, with Cracow, Danzig, and Posen
brought into the same Polish-speaking ring-fence with Warsaw.
What everyone who has looked into the Albanian question desires
is that the Albanians shall pasture their flocks and market their
sheepskins in peace, free of Serbian control. In every country
at present at war, the desire of the majority of people is for a
non-contentious solution that will neither crystallise a triumph
nor propitiate an enemy, but which will embody the economic and
ethnological and geographical common sense of the matter. But
while the formulae of national belligerence are easy,
familiar, blatant, and instantly present, the gentler, greater
formulae of that wider and newer world pacifism has still to
be generally understood. It is so much easier to hate and
suspect than negotiate generously and patiently; it is so much
harder to think than to let go in a shrill storm of hostility.
The rational pacifist is hampered not only by belligerency, but
by a sort of malignant extreme pacifism as impatient and silly as
the extremest patriotism.


I sketch out these ideas of a world pacification from a third-
party standpoint, because I find them crystallising out in men's
minds. I note how men discuss the suggestion that America may
play a large part in such a permanent world pacification. There
I end my account rendered. These things are as much a part of my
impression of the war as a shell-burst on the Carso or the yellow
trenches at Martinpuich. But I do not know how opinion is going
in America, and I am quite unable to estimate the power of these
new ideas I set down, relative to the blind forces of instinct
and tradition that move the mass of mankind. On the whole I
believe more in the reason-guided will-power of men than I did in
the early half of 1914. If I am doubtful whether after all this
war will "end war," I think on the other hand it has had such an
effect of demonstration that it may start a process of thought
and conviction, it may sow the world with organisations and
educational movements considerable enough to grapple with an
either arrest or prevent the next great war catastrophe. I am by
no means sure even now that this is not the last great war in the
experience of men. I still believe it may be.

The most dangerous thing in the business so far is concerned is
the wide disregard of the fact that national economic fighting is
bound to cause war, and the almost universal ignorance of the
necessity of subjecting shipping and overseas and international
trade to some kind of international control. These two things,
restraint of trade and advantage of shipping, are the chief
material causes of anger between modern states. But they would
not be in themselves dangerous things if it were not for the
exaggerated delusions of kind and difference, and the crack-
brained "loyalties" arising out of these, that seem still to rule
men's minds. Years ago I came to the conviction that much of the
evil in human life was due to the inherent vicious disposition of
the human mind to intensify classification.[*See my "First and
Last Things," Book I. and my "Modern Utopia," Chapter X.] I do
not know how it will strike the reader, but to me this war, this
slaughter of eight or nine million people, is due almost entirely
to this little, almost universal lack of clear-headedness; I
believe that the share of wickedness in making war is quite
secondary to the share of this universal shallow silliness of
outlook. These effigies of emperors and kings and statesmen that
lead men into war, these legends of nationality and glory, would
collapse before our universal derision, if they were not stuffed
tight and full with the unthinking folly of the common man.

There is in all of us an indolent capacity for suffering evil and
dangerous things, that I contemplate each year of my life with a
deepening incredulity. I perceive we suffer them; I record the
futile protests of the intelligence. It seems to me incredible
that men should not rise up out of this muddy, bloody, wasteful
mess of a world war, with a resolution to end for ever the shams,
the prejudices, the pretences and habits that have impoverished
their lives, slaughtered our sons, and wasted the world, a
resolution so powerful and sustained that nothing could withstand

But it is not apparent that any such will arises. Does it appear
at all? I find it hard to answer that question because my own
answer varies with my mood. There are moods when it seems to me
that nothing of the sort is happening. This war has written its
warning in letters of blood and flame and anguish in the skies of
mankind for two years and a half. When I look for the collective
response to that warning, I see a multitude of little chaps
crawling about their private ends like mites in an old cheese.
The kings are still in their places, not a royal prince has been
killed in this otherwise universal slaughter; when the fatuous
portraits of the monarchs flash upon the screen the widows and
orphans still break into loyal song. The ten thousand religions
of mankind are still ten thousand religions, all busy at keeping
men apart and hostile. I see scarcely a measurable step made
anywhere towards that world kingdom of God, which is, I assert,
the manifest solution, the only formula that can bring peace to
all mankind. Mankind as a whole seems to have learnt nothing and
forgotten nothing in thirty months of war.

And then on the other hand I am aware of much quiet talking.
This book tells of how I set out to see the war, and it is
largely conversation.... Perhaps men have always expected
miracles to happen; if one had always lived in the night and only
heard tell of the day, I suppose one would have expected dawn to
come as a vivid flash of light. I suppose one would still think
it was night long after the things about one had crept out of the
darkness into visibility. In comparison with all previous wars
there has been much more thinking and much more discussion. If
most of the talk seems to be futile, if it seems as if everyone
were talking and nobody doing, it does not follow that things are
not quietly slipping and sliding out of their old adjustments
amidst the babble and because of the babble. Multitudes of men
must be struggling with new ideas. It is reasonable to argue
that there must be reconsideration, there must be time, before
these millions of mental efforts can develop into a new
collective purpose and really /show/--in consequences.

But that they will do so is my hope always and, on the whole,
except in moods of depression and impatience, my belief. When
one has travelled to a conviction so great as mine it is
difficult to doubt that other men faced by the same universal
facts will not come to the same conclusion. I believe that only
through a complete simplification o religion to its fundamental
idea, to a world-wide realisation of God as the king of the heart
and of all mankind, setting aside monarchy and national egotism
altogether, can mankind come to any certain happiness and
security. The precedent of Islam helps my faith in the creative
inspiration of such a renascence of religion. The Sikh, the
Moslem, the Puritan have shown that men can fight better for a
Divine Idea than for any flag or monarch in the world. It seems
to me that illusions fade and effigies lose credit everywhere.
It is a very wonderful thing to me that China is now a
republic.... I take myself to be very nearly an average man,
abnormal only by reason of a certain mental rapidity. I conceive
myself to be thinking as the world thinks, and if I find no great
facts, I find a hundred little indications to reassure me that
God comes. Even those who have neither the imagination nor the
faith to apprehend God as a reality will, I think, realise
presently that the Kingdom of God over a world-wide system of
republican states, is the only possible formula under which we
may hope to unify and save mankind.

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